Archived Story

Morris Plumley was an April fooler with names

Published 10:36am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Feb. 12, 1880, my maternal great grandparents, William Madison (Bill) and Lucretia Gosnell Plumley, welcomed the

Morris Plumley, the nicknamer. (photo submitted)

youngest of their 11 children into the world and named him Major General Andrew Jackson Morris Plumley.
As he grew older, he would only claim Morris as his given name, and would sometimes “fib” by telling folks that he was given such a long name because he was born on April Fool’s Day.
He delighted in playing an April Fools joke on family and friends, but was not always amused when someone played one on him.
However, dislike of his long name evidently prompted him to shorten other people’s names or give nicknames to them. This was especially true for his children and grandchildren.
He married Ollie Victoria Center, the oldest daughter of George Runyan and Lettie Barton Center. George and Lettie had an affinity for names, too. They named their five daughters Ollie, Allie, Tallie, Callie and Vallie, but were more “sensible” when naming their three sons, Hawthorne, James and Roy.
Morris and Ollie became the parents of 14 children, two of whom died in infancy. While all of them were given proper names, at Ollie’s insistence, the surviving 12 were given nicknames by Morris.
Thus, Nora Ellen, Elsie Mae, Bertha Vivian, Cue Estelle, William Grady, Elma Jay, Annie Idelle, Carlos Radford, Harold Dean, Homer Ree, Lettie Lucretia and George Franklin were called Nell, Possum, Plow, Quetie, Long Short (yes, really), Mule, Tom, Jack, Dang, Buck, Pitty Poo or Creasy and Hoss, respectively.
Grandchildren had their own nicknames, too. He called me Dr. Ramon because I reminded him of the small boy who was dressed up in a little doctor’s outfit, given that name, and used in advertising and marketing Carter’s Little Liver Pills in the 1930s and 1940s. I was smaller than most children my age until I reached 12. Every year, he would tell me that I grew like a cow’s tail…downhill.
Morris was known far and wide for his stubbornness. If convinced he was right, he stood his ground vehemently. That’s why he was the only person who refused to move out of the Dark Corner in 1917 when the entire area was leased to Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg for an artillery range.
He said, “There won’t be nothing here when I get back!” He proved to be partially right. Several families found homes damaged upon returning, and were never compensated by the Army.
The immediate family knew well one of his traits that many neighbors didn’t. He had a tendency to “pout for a spell” when things didn’t go precisely his way in family situations. Grandma Ollie simply took it in stride and laid the childish behavior to the fact that he had been the baby of his family in growing up.
The family also discovered that he had selective hearing. In his later years, when engaged in conversation he would oftentimes say, “What?”, or “Huh?”, causing the other person to repeat what was just said. He gave the distinct impression that he was hard of hearing.
Yet, let a family member go two or three rooms away, having a number of walls in between, and whisper something about him. “I heard that!” he would announce.
But one trait everyone in the Dark Corner laid to Morris Plumley; he was compassionate and always willing to help a neighbor. From the time he was given a madstone as a young man, he swore to use it to help anyone and everyone who had need of it.

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